The Las Vegas Raiders experienced a widespread of distractions leading up to their Week 7 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. As the team moved forward in trying to put those behind them, the result on the field told a different story.
While the Las Vegas Raiders were just seven points behind the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with less than eight minutes left in the game, they eventually succumbed to a week of distractions and a dominating performance by Tom Brady in a 45-20 blowout loss at Allegiant Stadium on Sunday.
The Raiders were riding high after pulling off the upset victory in Kansas City two weeks ago, prior to entering their bye week with two weeks to prepare for the highly respected Buccaneers squad.
The Raiders entered the Week 7 contest shorthanded after right tackle Trent Brown tested positive for COVID-19, forcing the entire offensive line and safety Jonathan Abram to then be placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list as they were deemed, high-risk candidates. None of the offensive linemen who were exposed to Brown missed the game, but all missed the entire week of practice and Abram was unavailable due to his most recent contact with Brown coming at a later date.
Despite the hectic week in which the Raiders encountered, they played a completive football game for three quarters. Once time rolled into the fourth quarter, the wheels began to fall off for the Raiders. The Bucs offense was nearly unstoppable as Brady led the attack.
“I’m proud of our guys, too. I’m really proud of our team,” coach Jon Gruden said after the loss. “We had a tough week. We were in the ball game. Seven to eight minutes left, 24-20. Got away from us in the end. But I’m really proud of our football team. We just have to play better.”
To kick things off in the first quarter, the Raiders defense forced a quick 3-and-out from Brady. It gave a false sense the Las Vegas defense had picked up where it left off two weeks ago in Kansas City.
Quarterback Derek Carr and receiver Nelson Agholor began connecting early and often. It didn’t take long for the Raiders to find the end zone with Agholor hauling in two grabs for 49 yards and a touchdown. Both of his catches came with linebackers in coverage — one of the Bucs rare defensive flaws this season. The Raiders scoring drive tallied 70 yards on six plays with Carr going 3-for-3 through the air.
Answering back, the Bucs marched downfield and ended their scoring drive with a Brady quarterback keeper to find the end zone.
Prior to the end of the first quarter, coach Jon Gruden dialed up a 4th-and-1 direct snap to Jeff Heath, picking up the first down to extend the drive. Moments later the Raiders were stopped in which they brought out kicker Daniel Carlson to punch through the 42-yard field goal attempt, making it a 10-7 game.
On the following offensive possession, Raiders right tackle Sam Young came up limping with a knee injury after getting rolled upon. He later was announced as questionable to return, but Brandon Parker rounded out his duties for the remainder of the game.
Offensively for the Bucs, Brady displayed his well-established roots with longtime teammate Rob Gronkowski and found him in the endzone with Nevin Lawson in coverage. Gronkowski was a mismatch throughout the game regardless of who defensive coordinator Paul Guenther put on the future hall of fame pass catcher.
The Raiders have now given up 107 points over the past three games and Gruden said something on the defense has to change.
“We did not get enough pass rushes today,” said Gruden. “If you let Tom Brady stand back there and survey the field, he’s proven for 20 years and he proved it for 21 years, that he is still one of the very, very best. They have an arsenal of weapons, so credit to them, but we have to generate a better rush and until we do, it’s going to continue to be tough.”
What changes would Gruden make to the defense before next week’s game at Cleveland?
“Well I’m not going to say it here today. Obviously, there are somethings we have to take a good look at and that process is going to start as soon as the press conference is over,” Gruden said. “But, if we’re going to rush forward we’re going to have to do a lot better than we did today.”
With the final minutes expiring before halftime, the Raiders offensive line began breaking down. Carr was sacked by linebacker Devin White, who went untouched as a result of Parker accidentally stepping on Josh Jacobs’ foot — giving White a free lane to get into the backfield. Oddly enough, the Raiders refrained from going back to their usual starting five when Brown and Young have missed time previously, which includes Denzelle Good at right tackle and rookie John Simpson in at left guard.
The Raiders trailed the Bucs 21-10 going into halftime. The Las Vegas offense had stalled after back-to-back scoring drives to start the game. The same could be said for the defense, which gave up touchdowns on three of Tampa Bay’s final four drives to end the first half.
In the second half, Carr continued to look in the direction of Agholor, completing a 44-yard pass that set up a scoring play to Darren Waller.
With 4:15 remaining in the third quarter, Gabe Jackson was disqualified after a late flag came in. As a result, Simpson finished the duties in replace of Jackson, making him the Raiders’ seventh offensive lineman to see extensive action.
Going into the fourth quarter the Raiders trailed by seven points while having the ball on Tampa Bay’s 36-yard line. Later on the ensuing drive, Carr looked Agholor’s way again but had the ball tip of his fingers near the goal line. Carr then completed a pass to Waller that wound up 1-yard short of the first down marker. Gruden chose to kick the field goal to make it a 24-20 game with 12:43 left.
“It was a 24-20 game at that time with the field goal and we felt at home with a little momentum and we could hold Tampa to at least a field goal or possibly get off the field,” Gruden said of the decision to kick instead of go for the first down. “We had them third-and-12. Unfortunately, we had them right where we wanted them, and they converted on a check down. Very disappointed, but it’s easy to second guess right now. In hind sight I probably would’ve done the same thing.”
Brady responded with a touchdown in his own right, finding Chris Godwin for the score. The Bucs extended their lead to 31-20, while the Raiders couldn’t find ways to manifest much of any pressure on Brady.
While attempting to come back down two scores, Carr was intercepted after an intended pass to Agholor was tipped and found the hands of the defender. The Bucs then tacked on another score with Ronald Jones punching it in for a touchdown. Tampa Bay extended their lead by 18 points with 6:40 left.
“Everyone saw, it’s 20-24 with seven minutes left,” Derek Carr said “We’re sitting there moving the ball, they’re the number one defense in the league, we move the ball and they stop us. We still move the ball, we’re hitting explosives, we’re this close on three or four more big explosive plays so we felt confident, felt good.
“But with the film that we watch and the things we were able to put on tape today, very proud of our guys. The coach said in the locker room, we have nothing to hang our head about. Did we win the game? No. It’s not good enough, but the things we were able to put on film and the things where we’re headed and what we had to go through just being real this week.”
The Bucs added to their lead in garbage time, giving the Raiders their second-straight loss inside Allegiant Stadium. The Raiders now move to 0-3 coming off a bye under Gruden’s second stint with the team.
Las Vegas now holds a 3-3 record and will face the Cleveland Browns after losing three of their last four games.